A document drafted saying trainee intern doctors could earn an extra $40 per hour on top of their existing GST-exempt $26,756 yearly grant during the Covid-19 pandemic is understood to have been rejected.

Employment agreements were being drafted for sixth-year medical students during the outbreak.

One of the discussion employment documents leaked to the Herald proposed trainee interns would earn an additional $60 per hour, but yesterday the association said that had been tentatively reduced to $40 per hour.

However, the Herald understands this may now be off the cards.

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The document also said the students were not to be deployed in frontline roles and were to be used in non-clinical positions wherever possible.

NZ Resident Doctors Association national secretary Deborah Powell said trainee interns would be a very useful pair of hands during the pandemic but they needed to be recruited into the workforce.

If the pay had been approved, a trainee intern doctor who worked 40 hours per week would earn $6400 a month before tax on top of their monthly $2230 stipend.

That compares to a fulltime DHB nurse with two years' experience who would earn $4871 before tax.

One nurse, spoken to on the condition of anonymity, said although money was really low on nurses' minds right now, hearing what the interns could have earned was a "slap in the face".

"I think obviously if there's room in the health budget surely they can give us something."

She said nurses had been waiting a very long time to be adequately compensated and was unsure why the interns would get free meals, which nurses do not get.

"I am really grateful they're prepared to help, but it is difficult to know they'll be getting paid more than me as an experience registered nurse who will have to guide them."

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As it stands, trainee interns are technically students, therefore Powell said they were not covered by the protections employees usually get, like ACC.

Powell said they also wanted the students to be employed because they could be deployed in an unsafe way.

She told the Herald they had heard suggestions students should do nights or work in the testing stations.

"This is absolute frontline Covid work, why would we put them there? We have very skilled registered nurses and doctors out on those testing sites. It would be inappropriate to put a student there."

Powell said to keep them safe they needed to be employed and attached to a single doctor.

"Yeah, the money has changed [dropped from $60 to $40], but those protections in those documents have remained pretty much the same, not doing nights, not working in the frontlines."

Powell told the Herald medical students had large student loans, so they always factored that in when discussing pay.

New Zealand Medical Students Association president Ellie Baxter said as far as they were concerned, they are not involved or endorsing any employment agreements.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial adviser, David Wait, said they did not have any issue with the potential pay and said they would be exploring pay bonuses when they had "space" to do it.

"We don't see this as a Covid-19 issue, we see this as a general pay rate issue. An experienced nurse that's in the frontline and proving this direct care should be paid more than an intern doctor."

He said right now the focus should be on patients, so pay was not the main issue.

"We absolutely support the intern doctors getting that pay rate. That's a pay rate they're absolutely entitled to under their employment agreement."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website